Safety stirrups – what are your options?

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  • The best safety stirrups are designed to release your foot quickly and easily in the event of an accident – but which are the safest stirrups? There are a variety of designs and release mechanisms available, including peacock stirrups, shaped irons and breakaway stirrups with mechanical or flexible arms.

    • Peacock stirrups – characterised by the rubber band on the outside of the stirrup, these are the most traditional of safety stirrups. They are only recommended for children.
    • Shaped irons – stirrups with a distinctive bend have been designed to help prevent the foot becoming caught in the event of a fall. If you aren’t keen on the full breakaway effect, this style of stirrup can offer some reassurance and are usually much cheaper than the breakaway style.
    • Breakaway stirrups – some designs have a flexible or mechanical outside arm that releases the foot when put under a specified amount of uneven pressure in the event of a fall, while others are designed to release from the stirrup leather completely. Many designs also have features associated with the best technical stirrups, which has resulted in a wide range of price points.

    When considering which of the best safety stirrups are right for you, it’s important to consider which you believe to be the safest stirrups – breakaway mechanisms or ergonomically shaped irons – as neither can be guaranteed 100%. You should also check that the style and colour are permitted by your governing body if you plan to compete as many are available in a wide range of colours. Finally, it can be easy to spend a lot of money on a pair of safety stirrups – although you can’t put a price on safety, it’s still an important consideration.

    Best safety stirrups on the market

    Flex-On Safe-On stirrups

    Flex-On Safe-On Stirrups

    Colours: 11 frame, 3 footbed and 17 elastomer options
    Sizes: Adult or junior (for riders under 40kg)
    Weight: 500g each (adult), 275g (junior)
    RRP: £244.95 (adult), £145.95 (junior)
    H&H review: 9/10, H&H Approved

    Reasons to buy: Loads of customisation options, suited to jumping, junior sizes

    Based on the design for Flex-On’s Green Composite Stirrup (featured in our guide to the best technical stirrups), the Safe-On has shock-absorbing and ergonomic features and can be customised in the same way. The outer branch is designed to open in the event of a fall when at least 40kg weight is exerted on it – and can quickly and easily be re-attached using a tool supplied. They are also available in a junior size (for riders under 40kg).

    The elastomers provide shock absorption to protect joints, while the off-set leather slot ensures the stirrup sits at the optimum angle. The angle of the tread helps you to maintain the correct leg position. The junior stirrups are available with flat or inclined treads, and an optional stirrup cage for the junior stirrup and endurance riders is also available.

    We put these stirrups to the test and loved them so much we rated them H&H Approved. The angle of the footplate encourages good position, and we thought they were particularly well suited to jumping. The only niggle we had was that if you want to re-secure the arm after falling, you need to have the key with you – however, you can continue riding without securing it as it doesn’t completely detach.  Read our full Flex-On Safe-On stirrups review.

    In the UK? View now at gsequestrian.co.uk or amazon.co.uk
    In the US? View now at amazon.com

    Rid’Up Plus Stirrups

    Rid’Up Plus Stirrups

    Colours: Plum, black, red, chocolate, grey or royal blue
    Weight: 440g each
    RRP: £230

    Reasons to buy: If you’re not so keen on breakaway arms, same pair can be used by adult and child

    These stirrups feature a patented release system that allows the stirrup to disengage from the leather – the mechanism remains firmly shut under severe but normal pressure, but releases immediately in the event of abnormal twisting forces. There is no minimum weight, so these stirrups can be used by adults and children.

    The wide-bevelled footplate has stainless steel studs to give an efficient grip without the need for strong foot pressure. Underneath this there is a shock-absorbing sole, which relieves concussion to the rider’s joints and horse’s back. The eye of the stirrup is angled at 90°, making it easier for the rider to access and allowing the leather to lie flat.

    In the UK? View now at viovet.co.uk or gsequestrian.co.uk

    JS Italia Jin Air Stirrups

    JS Italia Jin Air Stirrups

    Colours: 17 options
    Sizes: Standard or junior
    Weight: 480g each (adult)
    RRP: £229 (adult), £169 (junior)
    H&H review: 9/10, H&H Approved

    Reasons to buy: Lots of colour options, junior sizes

    These stirrups have an anatomical extra-wide footbed that provides a high level of comfort, grip and stability. Based on the Jin Anatomic Stirrups, they are shaped to minimise joint stress, aid leg position and provide comfort and grip. They are designed to help you keep them in place, yet allow an easy exit from any direction when necessary. The smart-release mechanism has a flexible arch that automatically returns to its original position. The junior version is suitable for sizes UK2½ and below.

    When putting these stirrups to the test, we found them to be particularly good at encouraging heels to come down. Read our full Jin Air stirrups review.

    In the UK? View now at amazon.co.uk
    In the US? View now at amazon.com

    Shires Karben Ultra Grip Stirrups

    Shires Karben Ultra Grip Stirrups

    Colours: Black
    Weight: 450g each
    RRP: £139.99

    Reasons to buy: Lower end of price scale for breakaway arm

    These stirrups have a spring-loaded breakaway arm that is forced open by a fall and re-engages with a single click. They’re made of aluminium and have an studded tread to offer grip in all conditions. They have a shock-absorbing weighted base, while the stirrup leather eyelet is angled in a way that naturally optimises hip, knee and foot alignment and assists with retrieval.

    In the UK? View now at gsequestrian.co.uk

    FreeJump Soft’Up Pro+

    FreeJump Soft’Up Pro+

    Colours: Silver, blue, choco, pink, red, Bordeaux, navy, black, green or cream
    Weight: 502g each
    RRP: £259

    Reasons to buy: Offers high level of shock absorption

    The Freejump Soft’Up Pro Plus stirrups are designed with both safety and comfort in mind. The inner branch is fixed, while the outer open branch can bend open to easily release your foot in the event of a fall. They also offer a high degree of shock absorption – the stirrups flex at the lower inside bend of the stirrups, which absorbs shock travelling into riders ankles, knees and hips in addition to the shock travelling across the horses back.

    The main difference from the Soft’Up Classics is the position of the stirrup eye, which is on a 45° angle to provide extra comfort and allow riders to easily find a lost stirrup. The Pro+ tread is also 27% larger – this extra size combined with the raised metal studs across each footplate provides extra grip and stability.

    In the UK? View now at amazon.co.uk or gsequestrian.co.uk
    In the US? View now at amazon.com

    LeMieux Vector Balance stirrups

    LeMieux Vector Balance Stirrups

    Colours: Black, silver or black/silver
    Weight: 419g each
    RRP: £159.95

    Reasons to buy: If you prefer an understated look, lightweight

    These lightweight stirrups have an ergonomic footplate set at 5° with a cross-track grip surface that is mounted on an impact-absorbing cushioned layer with a 70% compression rating. The footplate is supported by a twin balance arch system that distributes the weight evenly across the base of the stirrup frame, while the stirrup sits at a 45° outward orientation, making it easier to locate and regain a lost stirrup.

    The integrated safety arm has a two-stage release system, preventing unintentional opening. When pressure is put onto the arm of the stirrup, rather than evenly across the stirrup, such as if the rider falls, the arm releases allowing the foot to come out of the stirrup.

    In the UK? View now at amazon.co.uk or naylors.com

    Acavallo Arena Safety Stirrups

    Acavallo Arena AluPro Safety Stirrups

    Colours: Black, silver, charcoal, red, blue, brown, titanium or rose gold
    Weight: 460g each
    RRP: £130

    Reasons to buy: Simple design with plenty of colours to choose from

    These stirrups have a polyamide side-opening arm that opens at the base of the stirrup in the event of a fall, preventing your foot from getting stuck. The stress-activated lock and release mechanism can easily be reengaged after it has been triggered.

    The rest of stirrup is constructed from a single piece of integrated metal, while the pad is made from polyamide and the non-slip stirrup tread is stainless steel. It’s less rigid than other designs so stirrup bow and foot support absorb impact and providing relief for ankles, knees, hips and foot arches.

    In the UK? View now at amazon.co.uk or ebay.co.uk
    In the US? View now at amazon.com

    Equipe technical stirrups

    Equipe Staf15 Safety Stirrups

    Colours: Black, light titanium, dark titanium or bronze, with a choice of 11 rubber arm colours
    Weight: 455g each
    RRP: £324.50
    H&H review: 8/10

    Reasons to buy: Simple release system and scratch-proof colouring

    These stirrups feature a mobile silicone gullet that allows for a simple release in case of a fall – and this can be restored without any tools. The simple release system has no springs, hooks, magnets or other elements that could break or get stuck, while the lower section of the silicone gullet works to prevent the stirrup from loosening under conditions of normal use. The black treads have a special scratch-proof treatment and feature unique slots for removing sand from your boots, with a texture that increases grip, helping to ensure optimum security and stability throughout use.

    Read H&H’s independent Equipe safety stirrups review.

    Fouganza Stirrup Irons 500

    Fouganza Stirrup Irons 500

    Colours: Black, black/red or black/blue
    Weight: 600g each
    RRP: £69.99

    Reasons to buy: Great budget option

    If you’re looking for a budget safety stirrup with an arm release mechanism, these stirrups are likely to be the cheapest you’ll find. They are designed to guide the foot into the right position, making the flexible release arm easier to open in the event of a fall. They have a wide footplate with good traction and grip.

    In the UK? View at decathlon.co.uk

    Rhinegold Stainless Steel Peacock Safety Stirrups

    Rhinegold Stainless Steel Peacock Safety Stirrups

    Colours: Silver
    Sizes: 3½in or 4in
    RRP: £26.50

    Reasons to buy: Good for children learning to ride, lots of size options

    These stainless steel safety irons have a durable and thick rubber band attachment for optimum flexibility and safety.

    In the UK? View now at amazon.co.uk

    Shires Bent Leg stirrup irons

    Shires Bent Leg Stirrup Irons

    Colours: Silver
    Sizes: 3¾–5in
    RRP: £39.99

    Reasons to buy: If you prefer the more traditional look

    These bent leg stirrup irons are designed to help prevent the foot becoming caught in the stirrup in the event of a fall. These are a good option if you prefer not to have a release arm. To choose the correct size, you should allow for ½in of space either side of riding boots.

    In the UK? View now at equus.co.uk, gsequestrian.co.uk, naylors.com or gooutdoors.co.uk 

    Shires Fillis Peacock stirrups

    Shires Fillis Peacock Stirrups

    Colours: Silver
    Sizes: 3¾–4½in
    RRP: £39.99

    Reasons to buy: Good for children learning to ride, lots of size options

    Peacock stirrups are designed for children and are the original safety stirrups. They are made from stainless steel with a thick rubber band that will detach easily under pressure. To choose the correct size, you should allow for ½in of space either side of riding boots.

    In the UK? View now at amazon.co.uk, equus.co.uk, viovet.co.uk or gsequestrian.co.uk
    In the US? View now at statelinetack.com

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